|The Botto house on Norwood Street in Haledon|
While Maria inspected silk at home, Pietro worked in the Paterson mills, which were easily accessible via the Belmont Avenue trolley a few blocks from the family's house. The factory environment was a new experience for him, as most European weavers owned their own looms and consider themselves to be craftsmen rather than factory workers.
|The porch where labor organizers spoke to crowds|
as large as 20,000
If all of this was happening in Paterson, why, then did Haledon play such a vital role in the strike? Over time, Silk City had become increasingly more hostile to worker protests, with the police becoming more allied with the mill owners. The mayor forbade the strikers from assembling within city limits, and the police were poised to enforce his will with violence, if necessary.
Haledon, however, was a far friendlier environment. Its mayor, William Bruekmann, was sympathetic to the mill workers, and the town had but one police officer, who was described by one newspaper account as “a slip of a man.” The strikers had already committed to a non-violent work action, and Haledon seemed to be an ideal place to gather.
|Striking workers brought|
their message to New York
through a pageant at Madison
After five months, the workers went back to the mills, lacking the funding to support their families any further. Though the manufacturers denied their demands for an eight-hour work day, they agreed to limit the workers to two looms. The strikers had achieved a great deal, nonetheless: they proved that non-violence and a democratic approach to labor organizing could bring them the visibility and progress they sought.
There’s a lot more to the story than we have room to spare. The American Labor Museum is holding a series of events to recognize the 100th anniversary of the strike, the perfect time to learn about this fascinating element of our immigrant and labor history. Check the museum's website for details.